College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
Monday, September 13, 2004
By Al Myatt
Payback still sweet 40 years
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PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
Bill Faircloth made another trip to Greenville this weekend. It was a much
smoother ride than the one he made in 1963 and a more enjoyable trip back to
Back then, East Carolina College was hosting Wake Forest in the first game
ever played at Ficklen Stadium and Faircloth was a senior captain for the
The legendary Clarence Stasavich was in his second year as coach of the
upstart Pirates, and 17,000 fans almost double the previous ECC attendance
record jammed into the facility to watch the spectacle.
Fast-forward more than four decades.
A crowd of 38,141 for ECU's 2004 home opener on Saturday night pushed
all-time attendance at the structure now known as Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to
over 5 million.
"A lot's changed," said Faircloth in the aftermath of a 31-17 Wake win on
Saturday night. "I've been down here four times as a player, a coach and an
administrator. We're 2-2 (in Greenville) now.
"It's just a great feeling to win here because that was my senior year. I
was a captain and I'm from Eastern North Carolina. That really hurt me, that
first one. We're even right now. This is a good place to play and a good
place to win."
The Pirates won the first ever football meeting between the two schools
20-10 in 1963. That Wake team was scoreless the next six games despite
personnel that included Karl Sweetan and Brian Piccolo, who both went on to
play in the NFL. That Deacons unit also included future coach John Mackovic.
"When we came down in 1963, it was about six hours from Winston-Salem,"
Faircloth said. "I don't think there was a tobacco barn east of Raleigh that
didn't have 'Beat Wake Forest' on it."
Wake was confounded in '63 by ECU's single wing offense that sprung Tom
Michel for three scores.
Faircloth is from Clinton, N.C. and graduated in the same high school class
as new ECU athletic director Terry Holland.
"He's a great person and he's got a lot of good experience," Faircloth said.
"It's a great tribute to East Carolina and also to him. He loves it down
here. Both parties have got a good situation."
Faircloth said Holland was an exceptional football player in high school
although he accepted a basketball scholarship to Davidson, where he became a
star in a program on the rise under Lefty Driesell.
"He was a real good football player," Faircloth said of Holland. "He played
end and he could run like a deer. He was a really good football player."
Holland and wife Ann mingled among ECU tailgaters, getting acquainted with
Pirate fans prior to Saturday night's kickoff.
Grobe endorses ECU offense
Speaking of historical perspectives on the ECU football program, Jim Grobe
also has a long term familiarity with the Pirates. Grobe brought his 1996
Ohio team to Greenville and was outscored 55-45.
Now in his fourth season as coach at Wake Forest, Grobe was impressed with
ECU's systems and effort on Saturday night.
"They told us coming in, 'You're not going to run the orbit sweep, you're
not going to run between the tackles,' " Grobe said. "What we had basically
was Cory run and Cory throw. We were afraid to run much option because of
the blitzes we were getting."
Wake quarterback Cory Randolph threw for 344 yards and ran for 94 more,
tossing two TDs and scurrying 18 yards for another.
Trying to contain the creation of new ECU offensive coordinator Noah
Brindise was another challenge.
"We were very fortunate to go in the first half with [ECU having] zero on
the scoreboard," Grobe said. "In the second half, once they got rolling we
could barely slow them down. What they're doing now spreading you out,
getting good athletes on your guys and making you work I like what they're
doing right now."
Grobe said his initial objective at Wake was to get his team playing hard.
Second-year coach John Thompson is getting that same kind of effort,
according to Grobe.
"They've got 'em playing hard," Grobe said. "That was a dogfight for us. It
was the same way back in Winston-Salem last year. They're doing the things
they need to do. They've got talent. I think it's just a matter of being
around the program for awhile.
"If you look at their effort and the way they fly around they play you
The biggest difference between ECU now and the Pirate team Grobe faced with
Ohio in 1996 is experience.
"They had a lot of vets, a lot of older players that had been around the
block a few times," Grobe said of the '96 ECU team that went 8-3 without a
bowl invitation. "John's playing a lot of young guys right now. I think
that's probably the biggest difference. Steve (former ECU coach Logan) had
been here a long time. He had a lot of older players. They had been there
before so to speak.
"I think one problem when you're trying to get things going again is you're
not only playing a lot of young players but you've only had a year or two
that they've heard all those calls. ... They're trying to get a lot of young
guys ready to play football and it's tough. I've been there. I know what
he's going through."
Grobe on the Ficklen Factor
Wake was leading 24-3 in the third quarter when a fumble by Willie Idlette
became a wake-up call for the fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Deacons were coming off a 37-30 double overtime loss at Clemson and
suddenly found themselves trying to survive in another difficult
"I was telling our athletic director, Ron Wellman, that I didn't notice a
lot of difference crowd-wise here and when we were at Clemson," Grobe said.
"It was a tough environment (at Clemson). They had nearly 80,000. When this
crowd got into it, it was every bit as tough on our players.
"I think last week's experience at Clemson helped us in this environment.
It's tough on the road. Everything you do wrong whether it's a turnover, a
missed assignment or a penalty is magnified. I thought we did a pretty
good job until Willie's fumble on the punt return of keeping the crowd kind
of calmed down.
"We did that, the flood gates opened up and it was a horse race right to the
ECU has an open date before hosting Cincinnati in its Conference USA opener
at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25. The Pirates will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and
Thursday this week.
ECU running backs coach Jerry McManus played at Wake Forest and Wake running
backs coach Billy Mitchell played at ECU.
Offensive coordinator Noah Brindise selected tight end Sean Harmon in a
tryout for the receiver pass that was thrown incomplete to Art Brown in the
third quarter after a 62-yard run by Brown got ECU in scoring position. "Art
may have been gassed," Brindise said. "I might should have gotten another
tailback in there."
Harmon may be seeing more playing time. Brindise said a fourth quarter knee
injury to tight end Shawn Levesque looked severe. Running back Marvin Townes
went out with a right knee sprain but true freshman Chris Johnson stepped up
with an 86-yard scoring run that drew ECU within 24-17 with 1:13 left in the
third quarter. "I think we saw that Chris is going to be our guy when Marvin
is gone," Brindise said.
Edwin Rios had seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the season
opener at West Virginia but was not a factor against the Deacons. Bobby Good
was the go-to guy with six catches for 122 yards and a score against Wake.
"We don't have a star receiver," Brindise said. "We've got five good ones
but no one that we necessarily game plan for. We feel like they're all
Encouraging thought: ECU has scored 40 points in its first two games. The
Pirates didn't score their 40th point until the fifth game last season.
While new stadium public address voice Jay Butler has a good degree of
enthusiasm, he occasionally got his information mixed up in the season
opener. Are there spotters assisting him upstairs?
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02/23/2007 12:46:29 AM